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Man detained for selling animal feed oil for human consumption

2014/10/08 20:33:48

Investigators raid a possible supplier of Hsin Hao in Tainan. (Courtesy of the Investigation Bureau)

Taipei, Oct. 8 (CNA) A former executive at a major cooking oil company has been detained for allegedly selling oil unfit for human consumption and passing it off as edible lard, the Tainan District Prosecutors Office confirmed Wednesday.

Wu Jung-he left Cheng I Food Co., a subsidiary of major food producer Ting Hsin International Group, 10 years ago and set up his own company called Hsin Hao, prosecutors said.

He is alleged to have purchased oil used for animal feed from several companies starting in 2012 and then reselling the low-quality oil to his former employer, claiming it was edible lard.

Cheng I mixed the oil it bought form Wu into some of its popular products, including Wei Li-brand fragrant oil and lard and Cheng I-brand lard, 15-kg barrel lard, 180-kg refined lard, bakery oil and other special order products.

Ting Hsin admitted Wednesday that Cheng I does have records showing it purchased raw materials for its lard products from Hsin Hao.

The group said that it is working with authorities to check which products are affected, adding that "it will take some time" to get to the bottom of the case.

Prosecutors and other law enforcement personnel raided Wu's factory Monday and summoned 20 individuals, including Wu, for questioning.

They found that Hsin Hao had bought 1,376 metric tons of animal feed oil in 2012 but took no deliveries of it over the span of 2013. Another 424 metric tons of feed oil was purchased between February and May this year.

Prosecutors said it will take further investigation to determine how much of the oil has been consumed.

Their request to detain Wu is based on suspicion of fraud and violation of the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation.

Prosecutors said that they will also look into the supplying and distribution channels of Hsin Hao and Cheng I.

Initial investigations have found that Hsin Hao is in fact a one-man company with some temporary helping hands brought in only occasionally, authorities said.

As for where Hsin Hao's oil was sourced, the matter is more complex. Some was for use in animal feed, but there was also palm oil, mixed animal and vegetable oil, and even waste edible oil, all coming from seven different companies or locations.

As the case threatened to become Taiwan's next food scare, one food maker was quick to emphasize that it is not related to Ting Hsin and its affiliates.

Wei Lih Food Industrial Co issued a news release that its main products -- Wei Lih brand instant noodles -- is completely unrelated to the affected Wei Li brand of oil produced by Cheng I.

Changhua-based Wei Lih Food said that it sold its trademark for the edible oil products to Cheng I a long time ago.

While the two unrelated brands have the same name in Chinese, they have slightly different logos and different spellings in English.

(By Chang Jung-hsiang, Han Ting-ting and Lilian Wu)

Related stories:
●Oct. 8: Cheng I apologizes over problematic oil
●Oct. 8: Ting Hsin back in hot water over new oil scandal at subsidiary